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Great House

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  14,272 Ratings  ·  2,161 Reviews
A powerful, soaring novel about a stolen desk that contains the secrets, and becomes the obsession, of the lives it passes through. For twenty-five years, a solitary American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's secret police; one day a girl claiming to be his daughter arrives to take it away, send ...more
Hardcover, 289 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2010)
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Elise Vermeeren Dov is a judge in London, remember? Nadia hit him with the car and she tells him her story, because the doctor tells her talking to him might help…moreDov is a judge in London, remember? Nadia hit him with the car and she tells him her story, because the doctor tells her talking to him might help him. I think so does Dov's father.(less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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So I say again: writing a book of short stories, fitting them together Tetris-like, and calling it a novel DOES NOT MAKE YOUR BOOK A NOVEL. Also telling your publisher to put "a novel" on the cover after the title DOES NOT MAKE YOUR BOOK A NOVEL. If you write a collection of short stories, IT IS OK TO CALL IT A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES. Because you are Nicole Krauss, especially, because you will probably STILL BE NOMINATED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD.


(EDIT: But YOU WON'T WIN, thankfully!
Ian "Marvin" Graye
How Did She Do What She Just Did?

I looked forward to reading this novel for several years, was apprehensive in the first couple of chapters, persisted, got my bearings, then in the second half grew confident that it would blow my mind (which it did).

The novel makes demands on you, you have to exert yourself, but the rewards are enormous and profound.

As at the time of writing this review (if I can call it that), I finished the novel less than 24 hours ago. I still haven't worked out what else to
Feb 18, 2011 Kemper rated it it was ok
I’m more a genre guy than a literature reader, but I’ve been trying to branch out lately. I’m glad I did because I’ve read some amazing things that I probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise. However, it only takes one book like this send me running back to the mystery or sci-fi section for comfort. It wasn’t bad, but it’s just working so damn hard to be an ‘important’ book that it really isn’t much fun to read. And maybe all books shouldn’t be fun, but they really shouldn’t feel like this much wo ...more
Nov 04, 2010 Ursula rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels
This is the worst book I've read in years! The narratives are incredibly disjointed and confusing. None of the characters is interesting enough to warrant the energy required of the reader to piece together their stories in a meaningful way. The writing itself is trite and one gets the feeling that one has read similar stories by better writers. By far the worst flaw of the book is the lack of propulsion. I'm amazed that I read the entire book as there was nothing driving the book forward. Witho ...more
Jul 03, 2013 Kim rated it really liked it
This book is not about a house, great or minute. It’s about a(view spoiler)

Okay, so maybe metaphorically speaking it could be about a great house, like as if we all live in the ‘great house’ of life blah blah blah but, really, it’s about a(view spoiler)

I’m not complaining. I really really like the (view spoiler) (aside: you can actually click on those... It's not a real spoiler, I just wanted to test that feature out.) It sounds l
Violet wells
A common criticism of this book is that it’s more like four short stories than a novel. It’s true the four narratives, with a little tinkering, could stand alone as brilliant inspired stories. There’s a suspicion too that Nicole Krauss has difficulties writing novels. Only two in ten years – in stark contrast to someone like Murakami who knocks them out with what’s becoming almost a facile (and self-harming) ease. The stories are connected by a mysterious writing desk (reminiscent of Edmund de W ...more
Jun 24, 2013 Eh?Eh! rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are books that are the right ones at the right time. This one was a book at a certain time, maybe not just right, but with rough hewn edges that generally fit, squint the eyes a little, hold a thumb sideways, good enough. Life has thrown me from a moving vehicle and since I wasn't wearing my seat belt, the resulting scrape has left all these exposed nerve endings to be once again scraped by this book.

It wasn't the best read to have on the commute, the jerking of the bus and other people ca
Sep 21, 2015 Jana rated it really liked it
It is no doubtfully a beautiful book. And it has something that I’ve never seen before: sentence by sentence of this novel are thoroughly poetically contemplated and moving. It is one big explosion of wonder, how did Krauss do it? I was overwhelmed with her writing style.

But her four short stories are a bit confusing although they intertwine all the time. I don't know what really happened to all of them in this book. As one reviewer wrote, I as well wanted to draw a picture of how they are conn
Mar 19, 2013 Dolors rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
If you are looking for a light and simple story where there's a plot developed in the classic structure, this is not your book.
This is a tough novel, it requires guessing and work on your part, it's like a puzzle that somehow the reader has to put together. And for me, what makes it a great reading, is that you are not conscious of getting close to solving that puzzle, but when you turn the last page everything makes sense in a strange and singular way, like remembering your own memories, throug
Mar 14, 2013 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened
I loved this story, I identified with so many of the characters. How a person can fold into themselves so much and not realize they are blocking out the rest of the world. How you can live with someone until death do you part and not really know them. How one decision changes someone's world. How we are all entitled to our secrets, to tell our secrets or to hold them till the grave. How the person holding the answer, to a question they never knew they had, has a choice, do they open the folded p ...more
Jan 24, 2011 Liz rated it did not like it
I almost made it to page 100. I was thinking that the narrative was quite loose, plot developments subtle with a heavy focus on the characters' inner lives, a bit more intellectual than I typically choose, but I was soldiering on, trying to prove my literary merit as a reader. Hey guys, wait for me, I could have been an English major too! But when I read the following sentence, which occupies half of page 95, I gave myself permission to hang it up:

"But they didn't come, and so I continued to sit
Great House is both a novel with an overarching theme, and a collection of short stories - most of which are told in two parts, and all of which have loose connections with the others. In All Rise, a lonely writer in New York is haunted by the memory of a Chilean poet she met many years ago. In True Kindness, an elderly man in Israel, close to death, is both infuriated and pained by recollections of his difficult relationship with his youngest son. In Swimming Holes, a man is consumed with jealo ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Mar 10, 2012 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it liked it
Shelves: prosetry
Moments of soaring, heart-shattering prose. Krauss has the ability with one sentence - the gaps between the words, really (what you're expecting, more than what you are reading) - to imply and evoke the depth of emotion from the tragedies of life. It doesn't hurt that her characters have undergone or are experiencing the greatest contemporary tragedies of our times - the Holocaust, war, political persecution, sickness, death, deep and unreconciled domestic splits.

Much of this is about writing a
Jan 19, 2011 Annie rated it liked it
i'm embarrassed to say i actually sat down and drew out a diagram trying to sort out how all the characters were connected! then, in a fit of desperation, i logged on and google-d it, trying to find a post that would decipher it for me! so maybe i'm a simpleton, but it seems as though this type of book should not be so laborious. someone tell me, please, and put me out of my misery - the judge that nadia is addressing, is it his son, the melancholy soldier/would-be writer that she hit with her c ...more
So it started with a desk and ended up being about a desk all along. Or not. This narrative reminded me of a dramatic monologue or soliloquy. I really liked the flow, the arrangement of words were sugary literary goodness. I admit if I just read the blurb on the back, I might not have picked up the book to read, but because I leafed through the first few pages in the bookstore, I knew I had to get it. Krauss writes with the wisdom of an 80-year-old, dissecting her characters and producing a stor ...more
Apr 25, 2011 Elise rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while I will read something that affects me on a personal level. It becomes so intense that it is like a relationship, a secret relationship that I have with the characters of the story. It is not only that I can relate to the characters, feel their pain, happiness, anger, and fear it is that the author allows me to feel that way in a very subtle and almost sneaky sort of way. There are only a couple books that have made me feel that way in the past, The World According to Garp, ...more
Sep 19, 2010 Elaine rated it liked it
Nicole Krauss is an accomplished writer. Of that, there is no doubt. Her prose flows, even in a so-so work like this one. The problem here is that, although the prose flows, it just flows. This novel has multiple narrators speaking to an unspecified you, a Your Honor,and a son. However, the tone, no matter who is speaking or about what, remains the same. There are no distinguishing features between the narrators. Since the chapter titles don't include the narrator's name, that doesn't give the r ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 22, 2011 switterbug (Betsey) rated it really liked it
An imposing wooden desk with nineteen drawers floats through this book like a buoy, and sometimes with shackles, loosely uniting four disparate but interconnected narrative threads. The desk is largely a monument to Jewish survival, loss, and recovery, and mirrors the dissolution, pain, and dire hope of each character. Additionally, it is a covetous object, given a poignant and existential significance by the chorus of voices that are bound to it by their memories.

"Bend a people around the shape
Andy Miller
Nov 24, 2012 Andy Miller rated it it was amazing
The novel consists of four stories, three of which are connected by possession of an antique desk. The desk belonged to a Jewish family in Europe that was stolen when the Nazis too the family, the son who survived the war spends his life putting finding his family home's furniture and that of other Jewish families. Through that story we learn of the Holocaust's effect on generations born after its end by seeing the impact on the furniture dealer's children.

The desk is taken to London and ends u
Nov 01, 2011 Abby rated it really liked it
Shelves: recent-favorites
Nicole Krauss has taken a theme that in lesser hands would be a cliché and written an original and meditative novel. An inanimate object, often a piece of jewelry or a musical instrument, passes through many hands over many years, changing lives and assuming disproportionate importance. I've read it before but not this time.

There is a desk that figures prominently in the four stories here – a huge, almost monstrous thing with nineteen drawers of various sizes – but the desk isn't the point, is
Feb 16, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: mostly-literary
Nicole Krauss, a literary wunderkind, is married to another literary wunderkind, Jonathan Safroen Foer. For my money, Nicole Krauss is twice the writer Foer will ever be; her novel The History of Love was a mulitcontinental sprawl with only a few occasional lapses into melodrama and sentimentality. Great House is a gimmick book, with multiple narrators linked by a giant wooden desk, and Krauss takes a few mis-steps here as well, but if you're willing to put up with a bit of pretentious babbling ...more
William Thomas
Oct 03, 2012 William Thomas rated it did not like it
What's worse than writers writing about writers? Or writers writing about writing? Nothing. Which makes this book the worst.

From the first page the reader can feel the pretension oozing off the pages. I could smell it in the air, how Krauss seemed to be writing to please critics and win awards instead of write something honest and thoughtful. When an author starts writing about a writer or a poet or writing, it smacks of dishonesty. It reeks of something that is pandering to critics. That is ex
Apr 28, 2011 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes a book stay in your head long after you have finished reading and put it down, not allowing you to let go and move on to something else.

You have to recall passages, theme, images. You have to think about the questions it left you with. Maybe you even have to pick it up again, because you know there will be things you missed, more that will reveal itself on subsequent readings.

Great House has been one of those books for me.

It wasn’t a book I rushed to read, but as time went on I became
May 01, 2011 K rated it liked it
Recommended to K by: M
My sister is visiting (yay!) and we were discussing what it is we want from books. For her, beautiful language is most important; characters, also important, are secondary; plot is almost irrelevant. For me, it's characters and then plot, although if the characters are sufficiently interesting and the language particularly compelling, plot is less critical. This is why she loved this book and I was decidedly less enthused. The language was beautiful, yes, which is why I'm generously adding a thi ...more
Mar 15, 2012 Michael rated it liked it
As an avid fan of Nicole Krauss’s first two novels—A History of Love and Man Walks Into a Room—I hoped for great things from Great House. To a point, it matches these expectations, knitting an intricate tale of loss and repercussion. After three books, her themes remain consistent: Memory, solitude, loss, and the investment of personal meaning of everyday objects. In History, this was a book; in Great House, it is a writing desk. In both, she presents diverse narratives that eventually weave tog ...more
Sid Nuncius
Jan 03, 2016 Sid Nuncius rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an exceptionally good book. It had the potential to be dreadful - five fractured, loosely linked monologue narratives, little plot to speak of, no quotation marks for speech... it sounds like the sort of tricksy writing that I hate, designed to show off the author's cleverness and with little regard for anyone being able to read it. However, it is so well written that it works brilliantly: I found myself completely engaged with the characters and their stories and it also has ...more
Jun 22, 2012 Judy rated it it was amazing

Nicole Krauss is one author I wish wrote more novels because I enjoy reading her so much. Yet for some reason I have not ever read her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room (2002), which I must remedy right away. And I did not get around to Great House until it was picked by one of my reading groups. Her second novel, The History of Love (2005), was one of my best loved novels ever. I feel a bit abashed for allowing novels of much less quality to crowd out Ms Krauss. It is almost as bad a watching
Sep 01, 2011 Eric rated it it was amazing
This one is a stunner -- and certainly the best novel I read during the summer of 2011. This is a beautiful novel, an exquisitely written novel, and a novel whose alluring elusiveness will probably invite multiple repeat engagements (with no diminishment in the pleasures offered up). A variety of deep and abiding sadnesses preoccupy Krauss's characters (one contemplates "all the ways that life can be squeezed out of the human body"), as they, like all of us, "so delicately, so ingeniously [build ...more
Nov 28, 2011 Kata rated it it was amazing
Nicole Krauss had me at hello with her first novel, The History of Love. She is a true story weaver. She sits at her computer and looms a story together so intricately that you cannot imagine how her mind must function day to day. Is it like that always? The story centers around a desk. Oh it's not an ordinary desk, but the most elaborately carved hulking piece of furniture you can possibly imagine and yet it has this sense of intimacy with each owner. It virtually takes on a persona or swagger. ...more
Jun 18, 2011 Jennifer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I have time to read about a book a week so that's only 52 books a year. I'm angry right now that I wasted one of them on Great House. I should have learned my lesson when I was one of the few who were not completely enamored with History of Love - although after reading this book I have a whole new appreciation for it. Great House is written in a similar construction of multiple voices and stories that interconnect except with out any of the humor, surprises, or enjoyment of History of Love.

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Nicole Krauss is the author of the international bestseller The History of Love, which was published by W.W. Norton in 2005. It won the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Ėtranger, was named #1 book of the year by, and was short-listed for the Orange, Médicis, and Femina prizes. Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room, was a finalist for the ...more
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“One of us had loved the other more perfectly, had watched the other more closely, and one of us listened and the other hadn’t, and one of us held on to the ambition of the one idea far longer than was reasonable, whereas the other, passing a garbage can one night, had casually thrown it away.” 84 likes
“I've reached the age where bruises are formed from failures within rather than accidents without.” 65 likes
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